Situated near the Sahar International Airport at Andheri East in Mumbai, Annawadi is a 20-year-old settlement. Surrounded by luxury hotels, Annawadi is an urban pocket of poverty, disconnected from developmental interventions. The communities living in this slum are migrants from all parts of India particularly from Tamil Nadu, parts of north India and inner Maharashtra. The total number of households in Annawadi is around 1,000 with an approximate population of 3,800 people.
Annawadi or the ‘land of the Annas’ came into existence roughly in 1990 when migrant labourers from Tamil Nadu, employed to repair a highway, cleaned a patch of marshy land and settled there. As Bombay became Mumbai, more and more migrant labourers trooped in and settled in different slum settlements across the city, Annawadi being one of them.
Annawadi came into the limelight when Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Katherine Boo, profiled the slum in her book Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity. Katherine spent over 3 years in Annawadi researching her book. She visited the slum again on January 16, 2014, this time with a Programme Manager from Magic Bus, to discuss a plan of action: to help the Magic Bus team identify some of the children and youth she had met during the course of her research, to start a Sport for Development programme in the area.
Most of Annawadi’s residents work as daily wage workers across Mumbai with meagre incomes. Awareness about preventive health and formal education is low in this area. Children and adolescents are willing to go only till 7th or 8th grades in schools, after which there is tremendous pressure to start earning. Many young people living here are unemployed and their expectation is to find employment within the neighbourhood, which is very difficult given their skill sets. Substance abuse among young adults is a common feature. Domestic violence and alcoholism are rampant, and children are vulnerable to the fall-out of such problems.
Magic Bus began working in Annawadi on 14 February 2014; we conducted our first session at with 18 children, who will now attend weekly sessions.
11-year old Mayur says "I didn't have any friends when we first moved to Annawadi and my Mum used to tell me to go out and play with the neighbours but I was scared to go out because it's not safe out there with people shouting and fighting. It wasn't until I joined Magic Bus sessions that I started to leave the house, and I now have a few friends. I enjoy playing in the sessions, and I like the fact that there is always a new message with every game - we learn about why we should attend school and never miss our tuition, and about the importance of taking care of our health. My "dada" ('elder brother' referring to Magic Bus Youth Mentor) is very kind to me and teaches us a lot of important things. I want to be an Engineer when I grow up so I'm going to study very hard to make this happen!"
Mayur's mother who is a House Maid says "I don't want my son to go through what me and his Father have gone through, I want him to study and become something, to be successful in his life. I also want Mayur to grow up helping others."
Progress to date:
• New play spaces have been identified to start our sport for development programme. We have also conducted a parents meeting where we presented the Magic Bus programme and explained the curriculum to them.
• Currently, one Youth Mentor is conducting weekly sessions at Annawadi until we identify and train a Community Youth Leader to continue the work.